Wednesday, February 17, 2016

SfMCR Valentine's Day Special: "I will always love you"

Keith fanning me not with palm leaves, but a hospital whiteboard for patients (the heater was turned up too high in my room, and I was feeling stuffy). This was during my second bout of Legionnaires' disease, and he was there for me then, too.
I didn't know why I had stopped seeing Keith, even though I never ceased loving him. All I knew was that my new boyfriend looked almost identical to Keith, down to the clear band-aid bands affixing a loose lens to the frame of his glasses.

What a weird coincidence.

Keith had used one of the band-aids we had purchased in Sicily to cover the sores on my hands and arms to repair his glasses. What were the odds that David...or Michael--no, I already dated a Michael, how about Jonathan?...er, maybe Ricardo? would have made the same klugey repair?*

I loved the way Keith--did I say Keith?--I meant Ricardo, yes, Ricardo, gently kissed my eyelids or forehead. The way he barely made contact with the skin was both tender and somehow deeply erotic.

It was bizarre how much his body also resembled Keith's. But Ricardo had a full beard, while Keith had a goatee and moustache. I guess it was just my type.

How I looked forward to those kisses....

I marveled at how polite Ricardo was. "Thank you, sir" and "Thank you, Ma'am" were his refrain whenever someone else was in the room. I couldn't quite make out the other people said, but Ricardo's words, I heard loud and clear.

What a gentleman he was! 

Ricardo would tell me at length his plans for us. We would go on an Alaskan cruise. Keith and I had loved looking at the calving icebergs as we flew over Greenland on our flight back from Sicily.

I guess Ricardo loved icebergs, too.

He also spoke of future trips to tour Latin American ruins like Machu Picchu. I had always wanted to see place like that. What fun it would be!

When the time came for him to leave, Ricardo would plant the gentlest of kisses on my forehead or eyelid, and say, "Remember, I will always love you, and I will never leave you."

And Keith hasn't.

Later, after my awakening, Keith explained that with all the equipment I was hooked up to, lines, tubes, and my trach, I didn't have much space left for him to kiss. He was also deathly afraid of hurting me. Thus the oh-so-gentle kisses.

Nonetheless, the emotion expressed was unmistakable.

I will always love Keith, too.


The bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed roses that Keith gave me for Valentine's Day this year.
*This was a bit of lucid dreaming within my coma-dream. Even as my new boyfriend was my dream-reality, I debated what his name should be. I eventually settled on the romantic and faintly exotic, Ricardo, though a few times I slipped up and called him Keith. Obviously, this fake Ricardo has no relationship with the nursing home respiratory therapist whose name happened to actually be Ricardo.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.